&8216;Passion&8217; film may be what all of us need

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

With emotions yet raw and grief intense from the death of my husband only a month ago, I steeled myself to see the brutal, violent death of Jesus Christ in the movie that opened Wednesday in Natchez and throughout the country.

&8220;It may be just what you need,&8221; said one gentle teacher from Cathedral School who sat close by as the crowded theater crackled with anticipation for &8220;The Passion of the Christ&8221; to begin.

Yes, maybe so. Maybe the realistic depiction in this movie of a Christ who came to teach of God&8217;s love, grace and mercy and whose sacrifice in death defies our human comprehension &8212; maybe that is what we all need.

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Maybe watching the suffering will make us reach deeper into our hearts, to reflect more on the teachings of this God-Man, who even as he stands wounded and in chains, bleeding from the crown of thorns shoved mercilessly onto his forehead, asks God to forgive his tormentors.

Indeed, the caning, beating, whipping, taunting, kicking, flogging and torturing of Christ grows to excruciating crescendos only to dip quickly into softening flashbacks and then to pick up again with more violence to a body already ravaged, bleeding and bent.

The movie opens in Gethsemane, where Jesus has come with three of his disciples. Apart from them, Jesus begins to pray, acknowledging that the end is near, asking, &8220;Father &8230; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want but what you want.&8221;

In this hauntingly lovely setting, Jesus confronts both an angel and Satan. He displays both the human and the divine, agonizing over his plight until sweat turns to blood, conquering an attempt by Satan to destroy him both as a man and the Son of Man.

The depiction of Satan throughout the movie is intriguing, a cloaked figure with a handsome face moving gracefully through the crowds, appearing often enough that the sinister one seems ever present.

Two scenes involving Satan stand out. The first is the unraveling of Judas Iscariot as he realizes he was the one to betray his Lord into the hands of the Roman soldiers.

Judas seeks a quiet place to mourn. Charming small boys appear, asking if he needs help. The boys metamorphose into small demons, who chase after Judas, picking and teasing as they drive him to the place where he hangs himself.

The second scene is a stunning metaphor of good and evil and of compassion and hatred. Crowds line the way as Jesus, still enduring the whip, struggles to walk under the weight of heavy wooden cross.

Mary, his mother, swiftly walks in front of the crowd, her chin up, her face contorted in grief and bathed in love, seeking what glimpses she can of Jesus. She walks toward the right side of the screen as, in the back of the crowd, Satan, also following Christ&8217;s movements, walks in the other direction, furtive and evil, so cold a figure.

The two hours of Mel Gibson&8217;s movie cover the 12 hours leading up to the crucifixion, with the exception of flashbacks that reflect bits of the teachings and earlier life of Christ.

Scriptures reveal the violence that took place during those 12 hours, the lashing and the taunting. Scriptures confirm the movie to be real in its exquisite portrayal of Christ&8217;s suffering.

Still, the scourging scene will overpower any tender heart. And even with eyes closed, one can hear the sounds of the whips and canes delivering the powerful message. Was the brutality overdone in this movie? Who are we to say?

&8220;Take, this is my body, broken for you,&8221; he had said so recently to his disciples at their final supper together. &8220;This is my blood poured out for you.&8221; With those words at that table, he spoke of a new covenant.

Prince of Peace, Good Shepherd, Son of Man, he sees Satan lurking on the hillside as soldiers drive nails through his hands and feet. He is up to the task. For us. Amazing. Go. See it.

Joan Gandy

is community editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3549 or by e-mail at